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Gathering
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In this nature-themed counting book, Bowen (Tracks in the Wild) shows how inhabitants of the Minnesota northwoods work through the spring, summer and fall to prepare for the typically harsh winter. Thoughts of freezing temperatures and snow begin as early as May, when gardeners plant tomatoes and beans for canning. Throughout the summer animals and people gather and store berries, and kids collect ``warm memories'' such as ``floating along in the canoes under shooting stars.'' Bowen's familiarity with her subject matter manifests itself in both her welcoming text and her intricate colored-woodblock prints. Attractively designed, each spread introduces a number from one to 12 followed by a first-person anecdotal paragraph of information (e.g., ``Two rhubarb pies. Each year the bright red rhubarb stalks, with their big curled leaves, come up by themselves'') and is graced by one full-size woodblock print as well as spot illustrations. A predominantly cool palette of blues, purples and greens conveys the seasonal chill. Bowen also provides insight into the idiosyncracies of the region and of her characters (neighbors contruct a labyrinth of extension cords so that their truck battery will start, for instance), companionably underscoring the demands of the climate and her respect for the land. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)

"A companion to Bowen's alphabet book, Antler, Bear, Canoe (1991), this counting book is a celebration of living in the north woods of Minnesota through the seasons of the year. Not really a concept book--the things to be counted from 0 to 12 on each double-page spread are not always consistently organized or easy to identify--this is more a lyrical picture book of an amazing place. The nature writing is precise and detailed, and children will pore over the bold, colored wood-block prints for the action and information. Winter is always there, even in the springtime scene on the first page: "We'll gather food and firewood and memories to be ready for the white snow and the cold dark nights when they come." Winter is there in the brief summer and in the harvesting of wild rice in the fall. The joy of 12 inches of snow is a glorious visual climax: 'Tomorrow we'll be able to ski! All day long.'" Booklist, ALA "The sophisticated counting book conveys both the magnitude of a northern Minnesota winter and the joy of simple domestic rituals as it moves from zero to twelve and from May to December, describing things a family does during warmer months to prepare for frigid temperatures." Horn Book

K-Gr 2‘Gathering continues Bowen's appealing woodcut art and narrative of life in the northwoods started with Antler, Bear, Canoe (1991) and Tracks in the Wild (1993, both Little). Unfortunately, it is unsuccessfully grafted onto the concept of a counting book. Double-page spreads feature the numbers from 0 to 12. At the bottom right-hand border of each spread is the name of a month starting with May and running through December. The absence of January through April is not explained. The book starts off with zero, as in zero degrees. The accompanying text talks about the need to begin preparing for winter even though it is spring, and the illustration shows a man preparing his garden while a boy flies a kite. The choices made of how to illustrate the numbers is sure to baffle most young children. What is a cord of wood? The objects to count are eight logs. Are eight logs a cord? The picture shows a truck and a man unloading many more than eight onto a stack. Other spreads are equally problematic. Treating this as a picture book rather than a counting book, it is much more enjoyable, for Bowen emphasizes and explains the long preparations necessary to enjoy winter in the northwoods: planting a garden, making cakes and jams, gathering berries and wild rice, putting in a supply of firewood, and gathering friends to enjoy the bounty. Appreciate the text and lovely illustrations‘forget the counting-book aspect.‘Judith Gloyer, Milwaukee Public Library

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